Week 9 – A History of the Print Industry

A history of Print media in the UK

The first incarnation of the printing press was created by Johannes Gutenberg and was called the Gutenberg press. Many people mark this as a technological breakthrough which brought us into the modern era – a gateway to modern times.

Prior to the introduction of the printing press everything was written by hand. Very few people were able to read and even fewer could write. Only monks and the very wealthy were able to both read and write. Due to this the church had a stranglehold over information, all information came through the church and they were the only people who could properly distribute it.

The printing press enabled information to be transferred between people outside of the churches influence. Initially the printing press was used for the printing of bibles which vastly accelerated the production of bibles. Prior to the printing press it would take 2-3 years to write out one bible.

Other books began to be printed of ancient scholars such as Aristotle. As a lot of the information previously available was through the church many did not question information provided even though it was subject to human error.

The printing press caused a massive increase in the distribution of the written word allowing for an increase from 20,000 books in Europe to over 200,000 by 1500.

The availability of being able to distribute information at such an accelerated rate allowed for the spread of Protestantism. Martin Luther translated the Bible into German; this was the first time the bible had ever been written in any language other than in Latin.

People then began to use the printing press for monetary gain. As global business began to expand, the printing press allowed for money to be kept track of and allowed for a standardisation of language and numbers. Having multiple copies of books available allowed for all those involved to have a copy of information and understand it in the same way.

The same information was readily available, without the human error found in written copies, and could be quickly disseminated. This allowed for a spread of: scienctific research, record keeping and books – which heavily influenced the Renaissance.

The spreading of learning led to the rediscovery of ancient knowledge such as the poetry of Cicero and Plato. This became publically available and allowed for an overall increase in knowledge. People were able to rediscover lost information such as the recipe for concrete and underfloor heating – leading to a progression of technology. Due to this the church lost it’s strangle hold over information.

Between the 1500’s and 1650: America was discovered, trade with Far East and colonisation allowed for a growing middle class. This consisted of: merchants, traders, lawyers, scientists. These developments led to the first banks being created due to being able to keep track of money going in and out and legal academies.

Images also became available to be printed which allowed for the mass production of maps and scientific drawings.

In the late 1600’s (around 1690’s) newspapers began to appear in their infancy, the oldest of which was the Oxford Gazette. Newspapers started off as pamphlet like leaflets on single pages, just stating some information going on in the area.

In the 1750’s the industrial revolution began. This heavily influenced the print media and allowed for the new advancement of coal and steam powered machinery. Printing presses became steam powered and went from being able to print 100 pages a day to 10,000.

In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s novels and fiction began to become relevant. Due to an increased lifespan and overall standard of living people were beginning to want entertainment. This led to the creation of some of the first novels and by extension the first form of celebrities, made famous by their books.

In the 1780’s and 90’s the French revolution leg to a fear of the free press in England as many used it in France to spread propaganda against the monarchy. This led to stamp duty was introduced in 1811; meaning anyone who wanted to print had to pay excessively high tax, limiting those would could print and those who could afford to buy them.

In 1832 stamp duty was vastly reduced due to fears of the free press dying down after it having been many years since the French Revolution. Then in 1850 the tax was removed all together.

Around this time web rotary printing was introduced and led to a boom in the production of print media, allowing for printing to be done much faster and efficiently.

Due to a highly urbanised population after the industrial revolution many factories needed a standardised workforce which led to the modern educational system for industrialisation. Because of this development in 1870 the Forster Act made education mandatory for all children up to the age of 11. This led to a 99% literary rate (the literary rate was 97% in 2012) by 1900 giving the newspapers huge power through being able to supply information to everyone.

During the First World War many people blindly believed what was said in the news. The papers were very jingoistic, primarily using propaganda. Many papers intentionally misrepresented information; such as saying a battle was won when it was lost or not including death totals.

In the 30’s and 40’s news outlets became privately owned by several wealthy families. However, radio began to become prevalent during the Second World War as paper was rationed and many reporters had been conscripted.

People began to look to the radio for news. Print took on a more analytical role; expanding on stories rather than just breaking news. Television and radio were better at delivering immediate and up to date news.

The press had to resort to grabbing attention and becoming sensationalist. In the 70’s many papers cut down their size and amount of pages and began to simplify information to make it relevant to a broader audience.

In the 80’s and 90’s magazines began to become popularised. In 1986 the publication Today launched and was the first newspaper to be published in colour.  Within a year, all papers were printing in colour as printing in colour became cheaper due to demand. This led to the print industry becoming more visual.

Glossy magazines became heavily prevalent in the 90’s with the introduction of: lad mags, girl mags, special interest publications. The magazines led to a huge readership with large advertisement revenue. The industry became bloated until around 2004.

With the rise of the internet and broadband becoming a standard in many homes, the internet began to start gaining viewership away from print media. Print struggled against social media and online video, making print fairly redundant. Between 2004 and 2010: the print industry suffered a decline in readers and began to lose money, jobs started to be cut, people began to get news from online and due to the recession suffered heavy losses.

From 2010 onwards there was a large shift for print media to move to online. Many papers started to do exclusive content online. There was also a shift to a heavier use of imaging and making web pages that were built around scrolling on phones. Stories began to be written with more detailed headlines so people could get information without having to read the story itself. Websites with the most frequent updates and rolling content such as the mail online drew in more viewers.

However, jobs are not disappearing in the print industry but are more evolving into a more online based medium. Websites monetisation is lower online but is still effective. Journalists roles have changed with an increase in pace and there is a heavy idea around video and audio editing knowledge and creating a brand for the individual as well as the publication itself.

The importance of having a professional standard of writing and grammar skills as a professional writer

Having a professional standard of writing and grammar are vital to get a job as a journalist. A good standard of grammar helps to seperate professional candidates from those who are unsuitable for the role. It shows a level of intellect and care taken with the work. It shows the candidate has given thought to the writing of their piece. Also, without appropriate grammar it makes an article much more difficult for the reader to understand. The use of grammar can completely change the meaning of a sentence and can lead to confusion if not done correctly. Also it shows a lack of care taken, if a reader sees something written poorly it makes a bad impression on the rest of the publiction. As a professional, you will be expected to have a high standard of grammar and writing – due to the competetive nature of the industry poor grammar can lead to being replaced by someone whose quality of writing is of a similar standard with perfect grammar.

In summary, grammar and the professionality of which you write is as much a reflection of your work as the content itself. When you are paid to write articles a certain standard is expected which naturally extends itself to grammar.

Class based practice:

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The importance of the opening 25 words

The first 25 words are vitally important to whether a reader wishes to read the article. Therefore this should be engaging and attract the reader’s attention. This should be very verbal and full of action. In no way should it be passive, it should be a very direct short summary of the story. This first piece of the story needs to draw the reader in and make them want to continue to read the story. The opening of a story should pose a question without actively asking a question. It should include enough information to get the reader’s interest so that they start to ask themselves questions, prompting themselves to read further.

Good examples in the news recently are:

France “is at war” after Friday’s attacks on Paris, President Francois Hollande has told a rare joint sitting of both houses of parliament.

This opening is short and to the point. This was written 30 minutes after the story broke and therefore used the shock value of quoting “is at war” in order to gain the attention of as many readers as possible to follow the story as it developed.

About 30 minutes later the article changed the opening to read:

France is committed to “destroying” the so-called Islamic state group after Friday’s deadly attacks, President Francois Hollande has told a rare joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament.

Both these two opening share the nature of direct and factually accurate information. The points are a short summary which allows for someone to quickly glance at the story and know all the relevant details. This follows the format of what, when, who – stating what the story is, when it took place and who was involved.

An example based on research done prior for another article would be:

Jeremy Corbyn has created division within the Labour Party and the public after controversial views over the scrapping of Trident at the beginning of the month.

Week 9 – A History of the Print Industry